Leaving the Holy Land with unforgettable experiences

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Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

© Sean Hawkey/WCC

The Ecumenical Accompaniment group 63 gathered in Jerusalem last week to wrap up their three-month stay in the Holy land with a debriefing and handover ceremony to the incoming team, group 64.

An experience of a lifetime came to an end and now the advocacy work back home for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine begins. WCC Weekly asked five departing EA’s to briefly share:

  1. What made you sign up for the programme?
  2. In three words, how was it?
  3. The most important experience you bring back home?

Edna from Sao Paulo, Brazil:edna-furuizi

  1. I wanted to learn more by being closer to the Palestinian people, rather than just reading about them.
  2. Challenging, a turning point in my life and that there are multiple truths in this conflict.
  3. The Palestinians’ resistance and their belief in a peaceful future.

Margriet from The Hague in the Netherlands:

ea-margriet-quarks-van-ufford

  1. To pursue peace in a different setting than my church at home.
  2. Confusing, impressive and hope versus despair.
  3. Meeting children and gaining their trust.

 

Malin from Gothenburg, Sweden: 

  1. malin-o%cc%88sterbergI am a human rights worker who believe in international presence, and I wanted field experience.
  2. Educational, engaging and frustrating.
  3. To meet people with different backgrounds and to feel that you are in the middle of a rich history.

Dave from Skipton, Yorkshire, UK

dave-stannard

  1. Came two years ago, and learned a lot about the situation. So, I wanted to come back for a longer stay this time and try to contribute to make things better.
  2. Humbling, moving and anger-inducing.
  3. The humility, generosity, kindness and dignity that the Palestinian people show.

 

 

Lanny from Minnesota, USA

lanny-kuester

  1. Have dealt with conflict resolution for the past 20 years, especially within churches. Trying to understand why this conflict isn’t solved.
  2. Intense, challenging and hopeful.
  3. The resilience of the human spirit and dignity.

Bring peace, love and respect – beyond the barriers

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by Marianne Ejdersten, director of communication for the World Council of Churches

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I have visited the Holy Land six times during the past year. Probably 20 times the last 20 years. I came back from my latest visit last week. I wonder; how could we bring just peace to the Holy Land? Is it possible? They are losing hope. You could really see and feel the hopelessness the last year. Even young people are losing their hope.

For decades the Holy Land has been a land of war, oppression, injustice and death. All the world’s Christians trace their faith’s roots to the Holy Land: it is the spiritual homeland for all Christians in the world. Therefore, Christians everywhere are called to prayer and action for healing in the Holy Land. They are called to act for justice and peace in the Holy Land. Peace with justice requires ending the long conflict, occupation, injustice and all acts of violence and terrorism and bringing back the land we call Holy to wholeness, peace, redemption and reconciliation for all of its inhabitants.

Look back on the last 10-15 years with ever-increasing settlements and a growing separation barrier. The deadlocked peace. I could both see and feel the hopelessness.

But there is hope – of course, we have to keep the hope – who else would do that?!

But how?

I met with the first Palestinian Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah in October. He is 84 years old and living in the monastery in Jerusalem. He told me, “We have to try harder. We have to do the unexpected. We have to build bridges of love, respect and understanding.”

I asked Patriarch Sabbah; what could we do as the WCC? He looked at me and smiled: You have already started in 1948, you are listening to others, you are praying, you are visiting, you are sharing stories of hope – please, do the unexpected from your side. Don’t give up. Please, continue. Please, invite the unexpected to your table, build unexpected bridges.

He said: A separation barrier is done by stones. Human beings are living stones. Focus on the living stones – beyond the barriers, beyond the fear, beyond the words.

My feeling is that we need to do more work to develop this spirituality of peace, love and respect in the way we work and live. In the small settings, in our daily life, in our families and in the wider fellowship.

One big hope is the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), created in 2002 by the World Council of Churches (WCC) based on a letter and an appeal from local church leaders to create an international presence in the country. At the WCC Executive Committee meeting in China in November, results were presented for a wide-ranging evaluation of EAPPI. Now, 15 years later, more than 1,800 accompaniers have taken part in the project. The evaluation indicates that 98% take the view that the programme is still relevant and delivers results, that manifestations of violence decrease when EAs are clearly visible; parents feel that there is security for their children on their way to school, etc. As a result, the programme is one of the biggest initiatives in Palestine and Israel in the humanitarian sector.

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit commented: “We learned a great deal from this report about what is needed to redefine the original purpose and profile of this very significant programme for the WCC, as an ecumenical initiative under the WCC, called for by local churches and pursued in close cooperation with member churches and other ecumenical partners. I believe this report and the follow-up will strengthen the programme.”

The communication strategies should be revised, that’s very clear in the evaluation report. We will start now, the week before Christmas! We will explore the communication work together the next six months. We will focus on storytelling, share glimpses of local life, the reality in for example Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Hebron. We will focus on social media and the web.

I believe communication belongs at the heart of the work and being on a pilgrimage of justice and peace together. We cannot give account of the reality around us, or articulate our hope if we are not communicating this to one another and to the world. To share is to inform, but also to bring a challenge and a motivation into different contexts and reflect on the role of communication in building just and peaceful communities. Communication for peace creates chances for people to consider and value nonviolent responses to potential and actual conflict.

Communication for justice and peace reveals backgrounds and contexts, listens to all sides, exposes hidden agendas and highlights peace initiatives, regardless of religion, sex and gender – no matter their origin.

For me the prophetic communication opens alternative horizons not limited to the perspectives imposed by the dominant culture, and empowers individuals and communities to tell their own stories and to craft their images and gestures. Communication is also a peace-building tool.

Communication is also vital in confronting threats to life. It affirms life by promoting truth-telling, fairness, participation, security issues, dialogue, openness and inclusion. Communication that threatens life is characterized by censorship, misinformation, hate-speech, lies and exclusion.

Communications from the World Council of Churches must have participation and hope at their core. Specifically, our task is to provide hope for a different world in which human dignity is strengthened. The equal value of all people is at the heart of its culture.

As a closing, I’ll use the words by Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear… That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind… The time is always right to do the right thing… Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

The World Council of Churches is to inspire and invite its member churches and ecumenical partners to work together, actively lending weight to the churches’ common voice – for a world with peace and justice at its heart. Its communication should reflect this. I try to summarize my experience in three words – peace, love and respect – three small words or 16 letters – but they are able to change the world! Sometimes, could words become the real barriers in the world?

God of life, lead us to justice and peace in the Holy Land.

Peace,
Marianne

WCC Christmas Message 2016

WCC Christmas Video 2016

WCC statement on Israel and Palestine 28 June, 2016

The Tent of Nations centenary: “We refuse to be enemies”

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by the Bethlehem team.  

On the 12th of May 2016, the Nassar family supported by visitors from around the Globe, congregated on a scenic hilltop farm on the outskirts of Nahlin village to celebrate their family’s connection to the land which stretches back in time to over 100 years.

People came from all over the world to participate in four days of activities that included workshops and group discussions as part of the 100 Years Celebration

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The opening of Hebron’s Closed Military Zone: Fact or Fiction?

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By EAs Emily, Daniel and Per, Hebron Team,

The Hebron EAPPI team sat around an open fire with a group of 30 Palestinians and international human rights workers eating warm kanafe. We huddled under ancient olive trees at the top of Tel Rumeida in Hebron and celebrated the opening of the closed military zone (CMZ) in H2, an area completely controlled by Israel. This community has been living under occupation since 1967 but what does this “opening” actually mean? And how will it impact Palestinians whose freedom of movement has been denied and whose lives have been disrupted since the 1st November 2015 last year?

23.05.16, Tel Rumeda, Kanafe, EAPPI/ D. Romero

23.05.16, Tel Rumeda, Kanafe is a traditional Arabic cheese pastry with a shredded wheat top crust drenched in sugar syrup. Photo EAPPI

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Our top 10 posts from 2015

Happy New Year to all! We want to say thank you to all our followers for reading our blogs and to all our Ecumenical Accompaniers for their eyewitness stories. We are encouraged by your interest and pray that 2016 will be a year of renewed hope for a just peace.

2015 was a challenging year in which occupation related human rights violations continued throughout the West Bank. August registered the highest number of structures demolished by the Israeli authorities in a single month in five years (since July 2010), settlement expansion was ongoing in Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem and construction of the separation barrier resumed in Bethlehem. In addition, the escalation of violence that began in mid October led to a tragic loss of life in both Israel and Palestine. Here we shed light on some of the injustices that occurred in our 10 most viewed posts from 2015.

1. Uprooted lives: Christians protest the construction of the wall in the Cremisan

06.09.15 Bir Ouna land owner in front of Israeli soldiers during Sunday demonstration Photo EAPPI/T. Finstad

06.09.15 Bir Ouna land owner in front of Israeli soldiers during Sunday demonstration. Photo EAPPI/T. Finstad

On August 17, Israeli soldiers and security personnel supervised the the bulldozing of land and the uprooting of over 100 ancient olive trees in the Bir Ouna. The land is being cleared to facilitate the routing of the separation wall through the Cremisan Valley. Local Christians have been gathering daily at the site of the bulldozing to protest the illegal confiscation of their land and to pray for the protection of the Cremisan Valley.

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Letter to WCC member churches in Israel and Palestine

WCC logoLetter from the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit  to WCC member churches in Palestine and Israel concerning the renewed wave of violence in Jerusalem.  19 October 2015

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ – our Lord and Saviour, the Prince of Peace, the child of Bethlehem.

I write to you at a time of renewed violence between the peoples in the land of Christ’s birth, to commend the witness of our Christian sisters and brothers in Palestine and Israel, and to express the concern and solidarity of the global ecumenical fellowship represented in the World Council of Churches. We are following with increasing dismay events throughout the region and especially in the Holy City of Jerusalem, which we hold in our hearts and prayers as an open city of two peoples (Israelis and Palestinians) and three faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). We continue to work and pray for a just peace for both Palestinians and Israelis, promoting respect for the status quo of the holy sites of Jerusalem as an important contribution to reducing current tensions.

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Video: Two women, a dividing wall and a uniting hope

by Norwegian Church Aid.

Build bridges not walls: World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel

September 20th – 26th 2015

Two women, Palestinian Clemance Handal and Israeli Hanna Barag discuss the separation wall, its purpose, its effects and their hope for its eventual dismantling.

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